Government Announcement on Cemeteries and Funerals, and Revised Guidance published 19 April 2020

On Saturday 18 April 2020 Robert Jenrick, Local Government Secretary, announced at the Government’s daily press briefing that he is ‘asking councils to keep open or indeed to reopen cemeteries and graveyards’, and that the Government will publish further guidance on funerals.

The further guidance was published on 19th April 2020 and can be found here. Despite not mentioning the closure or otherwise of crematoria and cemeteries, there are some key changes that will need to be taken into consideration.

Key highlights of the revised guidance include:

  • the bereaved are treated with sensitivity, dignity and respect
  • mourners and workers involved in the management of funerals are protected from infection

Venue managers should:

  • restrict the number of mourners who attend so that a safe distance of at least 2 metres (6 ft) can be maintained between individuals
  • the size and circumstance of the venue will determine the maximum number that can be accommodated whilst also facilitating social distancing, but numbers should be minimised as far as possible. Venue managers may set caps on numbers in order to ensure this
  • only the following should attend, alongside the Funeral Director, Chapel Attendant, and funeral staff:
    • members of the person’s household
    • close family members
    • or if the above are unable to attend, close friends
    • attendance of a celebrant of choice, should the bereaved request this
  • mourners who attend should be signposted to the advice on social distancing and that they should not attend the funeral if they are unwell with symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • venue managers should ensure that handwashing facilities with soap and hot water and hand sanitiser are available and clearly signposted
  • venue managers should ensure that processes are in place to allow a suitable time to clean and disinfect the area in which the service has taken place both before and after each service, paying attention to frequently touched objects and surfaces, using regular cleaning products
  • venue managers should consider how to manage the flow of groups in and out of their venues to minimise overlap between different groups and allow for adequate cleaning
  • venue managers should maximise ventilation rates of the premises by opening windows and doors where possible
  • Local Authorities should ensure funeral arrangements and numbers of attenders are consistent with this guidance.

The Guidance also allows for mourners to attend even if they are self-isolating due to a possible case of coronavirus (COVID-19) in their household, or if they are extremely clinically vulnerable. This new allowance is subject to those mourners following the precautions outlined in the Guidance.

Anyone who is showing symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) (a new continuous cough or a high temperature) should not attend the funeral due to the risk that they pose to others; remote participation should be considered, for example live streaming.

The Guidance also states:

To ensure that organisations managing funerals are able to cope with the increased number of deaths, it is important that funerals are not delayed. We understand how difficult this will be for the families and friends of lost loved ones, however the current guidance will be in place for the foreseeable future for the safety of the public.

Guidance on cleaning non-healthcare premises can be found here.